Netflix encourages their people to have career discussions with competitors, should YOU?

Thursday 27th April, 2017

You might recall a Netflix slide deck that went viral in 2009. It was the Netflix Culture Deck: Freedom and Responsibility and it generated a lot of attention at the time.

One part of the deck acknowledged that it was ‘good for each employee to understand their market value’. They suggested that it was healthy and important, to an employee’s personal development to have career conversations with other companies. More importantly, these types of conversations shouldn’t be seen as traitorous and, at times, should even be celebrated.

Why? Because sometimes there are not enough developmental and promotional opportunities available for everyone, especially those who are very talented and moving rapidly through their careers. So it shouldn’t be seen or felt as disloyal when somebody leaves for a bigger job that isn’t internally available. For some people however, this scenario is tricky to navigate.

A number of people I talk to explain they struggle when trying to find the balance between developing and defining their own career and being mindful of their employee obligations. My view is there is more to gain than lose when having a career conversation with an organisation other than the one you are at, either directly, or through a representative.

Career conversations are important. Whether you are actively looking for opportunities, or wondering whether to respond to LinkedIn ‘approaches’. Here are four reasons why you should have a career conversation whenever an opportunity arises:

1. Career conversations help you understand your real-time worth in another company’s context

• What are other organisations doing in your domain? Career conversations are good opportunities to see what others are doing and where the opportunities lie.

• Do you really know how in-demand you are? Your true market value emerges when you talk to someone who is looking for your skills right now. How much are they prepared to pay? This is especially true if you have been with your employer for more than four years, things are moving fast, and the market context in which you were hired has changed.

• See how your experiences can be right for opportunities you may not have considered.

2. Career conversations help you learn about yourself

• What are other employers seeking? You might find you have some key gaps to fill before you can take the next big step and having a career conversation provides you with an opportunity to evaluate yourself.

• Sometimes you don’t really know where you want to go until the destination is in front of you.

• Assess where you are within your company. Consider if there is a genuine career path - are there succession opportunities available for you at your current company, or do you have to go outside?

• A career conversation helps you to identify where you are in life and how that fits in with your career: is your family ready for a change, would you be willing to relocate or travel, where is your work-life balance, are you ready to step up or do you want to step to the side? You might find that you are exactly where you are meant to be, or you might not, so have the conversation.

• Although you may be comfortable now, a conversation might set you up with new career objectives and goals.

3. Career conversations create valuable relationships

• It may eventuate that you’re not actually right for the current opportunity, or that you’re not interested, but having a discussion around your skills, availability, development and goals will set you up for future opportunities.

• A relationship started from a career discussion might be what connects you to your next opportunity. When you are ready to make a career change you can connect again with the person who first reached out to you.

• Build the relationship further by recommending someone else if you realise you don’t want the position on offer.

4. Career conversations are interview practise

• You may not have had an interview for a while so this can be a good, informal way to practise how you would answer some of the harder questions; how to show case yourself and how to speak succinctly when doing so.

• Informal interviews show you your strengths and weaknesses, what you’ve accomplished over the past years and what skills you’ve utilised or gained. This is a great opportunity for self-reflection.

Netflix has fundamentally changed my viewing habits in the past few years, but its 2009 slide deck stays true. Have more career conversations to benefit you and your career and ‘Mum’s the word’ on the company secrets!


Rob Smart is a co-founder of Evolve Intelligence and the organisation’s Chief Operating Officer. Evolve has recently been named as one of Westpac’s 200 Businesses of Tomorrow.